Locating Missing Heirs and Beneficiaries

Locating Missing Heirs

In a normal situation, family members are in a position to identify and locate an heir or beneficiary to a deceased even if the deceased died intestate. However, there are times when extra effort is needed to help locate these people so they are notified of their right to inheritance or at least participate in court hearings. One of the most bugging questions people as after an intestate is, how do I find missing heirs? Intestate is when a person dies without a will and someone has to inherit the probate estates. Probate law is different in different states regarding inheritance. The beneficiaries are sought for from the family first. If the heir is missing, the probate attorney informs the Administrator who starts with doing sue diligence to locate the missing heir.

There are intestate situations where there is a will but due to errors, the documentation is rejected by probate court. This leaves the heirs of the estate unknown and the assets cannot be distributed unless the court can locate missing heirs and beneficiaries.

What if an heir cannot be located?

If an heir can’t be located, the administrator is required to make efforts to find the missing heir. The first thing is doing due diligence by:

  • Searching online
  • Advertising in a local newspaper
  • Asking friends or family of the deceased
  • Hiring a private investigator
  • Write to the heir’s last known address

What if after all this, the heir still can’t be found? What happens to unclaimed inheritance? Locating a missing heir can be a real struggle. If they can’t be found, the administrator hires a probate attorney. The available heirs or beneficiaries come together and everyone gets their share. For the remaining share, the law is different in different states. It is however similar in that the unclaimed inheritance is deposited in a county account opened when the probate hearings started. If someone can locate the heir after some time, the probate attorney handles the rest. However, it is advisable not to let the inheritance get deposited in the county account. A reputable law firm can help out in the search of the heir or beneficiaries. The inheritance is public record and one can do a simple search and get the list of the unclaimed inheritance.

If or when a deceased leaves an erroneous will, the documentation is rejected by probate court. This means the distribution of assets or estates is halted. Family members are advised to get a law firm that specializes in probate law to help get the process going.

What if an executor can’t locate a beneficiary?

Before the executor claims the missing beneficiary can’t be located entirely, it is advisable to fist hire private investigators. The deceased might not have left a lot of information to go with but the investigators can start with a genealogical search. The law is different in some states and if the inheritance happens to go to the county account, things might not be as smooth later.

After a probate estate is opened and some heirs can’t be located, distribution of the assets must be halted. It is the personal responsibility of the administrator or personal representative to make all efforts to locate the missing heirs.

In cases where the missing heirs and beneficiaries cannot be found, different states approach it differently. For example, in California, the amount owed to the missing heir is handed over to the County Controller. Alternatively, the probate lawyer asks the probate court to declare the missing heir dead. That is if the person is missing for five years or more. In such a case, the portion is distributed to the person’s heir or beneficiaries.

If you have tried to locate missing heirs and beneficiaries in vain, there is the temptation to let the estate go to the state. The probate attorney advises the client to do their best and avoid the estate going to the state. This might make the inheritance get held up for a very long time.

Inheritance is public records and a simple search in a database gives all the information there is about any held up estate. If the deceased had a trust for their beneficiary, the heir can be found though genealogical research. Assets can’t be distributed until everyone named in the will. The family is the first place to start according to the law